Gluten free sourdough rocks socks. Truly! We live on the west side of life and sourdough bread regularly appears as an option at every deli we know. The tang of sourdough reflects the region from which the starter sprang. In the Pacific Northwest, sourdough tastes slightly milder than San Francisco sourdough, but is no less complex and complementary to our favorite breads. Hopefully, this article will take the frustration out of creating your own starter.
It Begins with the Sourdough Starter
We made our sourdough starter from superfine brown rice flour. Lucky for us, our concord grapes needed harvesting. We put a few grapes in the starter to use the yeast that naturally lives on grape skins to help our starter along. In order not to scare people off, we also made a starter batch using a few leaves of red cabbage. The white yeasty layer on the outside of cabbage leaves also worked beautifully to support a separate batch of our starter. You may also purchase packaged gluten free sourdough starter to kick start your adventure; however, you will need to follow the directions on the package.
It Continues with Patience
Patience and a whole lot of love for your starter are required to be successful, especially around midweek. What you need to know is that around day 4, you will have to take 8 ounces out of the bowl once a day to keep it real. Otherwise, the volume of starter is too much to create the action needed to bubble and rise within the desired time frame. At least, this method worked for us. Also, the smell of week old sport socks may have you running the other way. Move through this stage with the grace of a champ – the stink does not last forever. Finally, do not cave in and feel your starter is ready until around day 6 or 7. You will definitely see the surface crack and a slight rise in the middle if you follow directions.
Measure by Weight for Success
If you are new to using sourdough in recipes, it’s easier to begin with a balanced sourdough starter to successfully replace the water and flour in a typical recipe without using a lot of math. The baker’s term for this is 100% hydration. For example, if you add 2 ounces of water to a starter, add the same amount of flour in weight – not volume. Do not measure out 1/2 C of water and 1/2 C of flour. They will not weigh the same. Using weight measurements prevents having either too much flour or too much liquid in your recipe.
How to Substitute
To substitute sourdough starter in most of your recipes, replace equal amounts of flour and water by weight with sourdough starter. For example, the bread recipe calls for 10.5 oz of water, and 12 oz of flour. You want to substitute 8 oz, (which is about 1 C,) of sourdough starter. Eight ounces of sourdough starter equals 4 oz of water plus 4 oz of flour. So, your recipe will now use 6.5 oz of water (subtract 4 oz of water used in the starter,) and 8 oz of flour (subtract 4 oz of flour used in the starter.) Easy peasy.
Check Starter Before You Bake
Sourdough starter must be active before you begin baking with it. You will notice air bubbles or pockets in the starter and it has a nice rise and tangy smell. If it smells too tart, or has little rise or bubble action, you will need to feed it at least 12-24 hours before you add it to a recipe. We keep our starter in the refrigerator and normally feed it once a week (2 fl oz water, 2 oz brown rice flour.) After feeding, we keep it on the counter for a few hours to make sure the yeast has time to feel happy and do it’s thing before returning to the refrigerator. If we plan to bake, we keep it on the counter for a minimum of 12 hours. We prefer to stress it a bit to bring out the tangy taste we enjoy. What this means is that we wait between 18-24 hours after feeding to bake. The starter must be bubbly, and the surface must be cracked and slightly domed. If not, we start a once a day feeding schedule of 4 fl oz water plus 4 oz flour until cracked and domed. If you don’t see activity within 1-2 days, follow the directions for Day 4 below until your starter matures.
Once your sourdough starter is mature, store it loosely covered in the refrigerator and feed it once a week, (2 fl oz of water plus 2 oz of flour.) An important rule to remember is that you want to replace in weight what you take out in weight. If you remove 8 oz, then you will want to add back 4 fl oz water plus 4 oz of flour if you are following the 100% hydration ideal. Allow some counter time after feeding before moving to the refrigerator. This trick seems to work wonders for our sourdough starter.
Customize Your Starter
May people ask what kind of gluten free flour they should use to make sourdough starter. We tried using superfine brown rice flour, teff flour and buckwheat flours (both light and dark.) For our taste, and for all-purpose use, we chose superfine brown rice flour. It’s easy to work with, and fairly neutral in flavor. Superfine brown rice flour is also an ingredient in our flour, Flour Farm Organic Gluten Free Flour Blend. Brown rice sourdough starter complements our recipes perfectly. However, you may use your favorite gluten free grain flour. You may have to adjust your feeding schedule or timing through another online post or through trial and error. We do not recommend using a starch.
Given the details outlined in this blog, your starter may vary given the temperature of your home, the precision of measurement, the quality of your chosen flour, and the quality of your water. In addition, you may have kombucha brewing in the kitchen or a compost sitting on the counter. These two factors bring additional yeast strands to the mix. The best way to deal with creating your own starter is to relax and go with the proverbial flow. If your starter turns black or has not matured within 8 days, start over. Don’t give up. It took us several tries before we felt like the starter was, “right.”
Perfectly mature starter – ready to bake!
Thank you, Sadie Sheffer for sharing Srsly’s sourdough bread starter instructions at Experience Life. The information shared helped get us over the 4 day hump! Please share with us your experience making sourdough starter. Leave a comment in the section provided below.
Peace & Love – Teri
P.S. Flour Farm gives back. We are committed to bringing healthy food to members of our community. If you are looking for equipment or ingredients used to make this recipe, please consider supporting Flour Farm and 2nd Harvest by clicking on the Amazon Associate links provided below. We donate 50% of the profit made from Amazon purchases to 2nd Harvest, which is a local organization dedicated to feeding our children, our community and helping those in need. You will be sent directly to Amazon.com; we do not store any of your information. Thank you and share the love. – Teri & Dave
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Equipment: Digital scale (preferred,) Large glass bowl or container with loose fitting lid, Measuring cups, Sturdy spoon
Choose Gluten Free, Non-GMO & Organic Ingredients.
Superfine Brown Rice Flour – start with at least a 3 lb bag (1.3 kg)
Warm Filtered Water
Bonus ingredients: 1 large red cabbage leaf with white powdery appearance, torn into 3 pieces or several local grapes
Note: The amount of flour and water is listed by weight using both metrics and ounces. Metrics are listed first followed by ounces. Example: grams or milliliters/ounces.
Day 1: In a medium sized glass bowl or one gallon glass container with wide mouth, blend together 113g/4 oz of superfine brown rice flour with 118 ml/4 fl oz of warm (not hot!) filtered water. Fold in bonus ingredients if using. Loosely cover the bowl with a tea towel and allow mix to sit at room temperature (about 68 F/20 C). If your home is cooler, place bowl in a warm area such as the top of your refrigerator. Try not to disturb the yeast party going on for at least 24 hours.
Day 2: After 24 hours, remove the bonus ingredients and begin feeding your starter 118 ml/4 fl oz of warm filtered water + 113g/4 oz of superfine brown rice flour every 8 hours (use 6 am, 2 pm and 10 pm as guide times.) Stir to completely incorporate flour and water. Keep loosely covered and store in a warm area of your home where it will not be disturbed between feedings.
Day 3: Follow directions for Day 2.
Day 4: Hang in there! Feed schedule is the same as Days 2 and 3. At the first feeding, remove 227g/8 oz of starter and discard. Continue to follow directions for the previous few days.
Day 5: Your starter should smell nice and ripe (pungent and sour are more appropriate descriptions!) Also, bubbles should appear around the edges and on the surface if they haven’t already. Continue with Day 4 directions.
Days 6-7: Follow directions for Day 4. During these days, your starter should start to appear cracked on the surface and bubbly underneath. A dome will start to rise in the center. Once the dome appears, your starter is mature and you are ready to start baking!
Maintenance: If you are not baking with the starter within 24 hours, refrigerate with a loose fitting lid and begin the once a week feed schedule (57g/2 oz flour + 59 ml/2 fl oz warm water.) After feeding, allow to sit at room temperature loosely covered for a few hours before returning to the refrigerator.
Using after refrigeration: Pull the starter from the refrigerator at least 12 hours before baking. We immediately feed the starter if it hasn’t been fed in almost a week the same amount as if refrigerated. We also place the bowl in a warm, undisturbed area. You will notice after a few hours if the starter is activated and begins to bubble and rise. If you notice the starter is mature enough to use, bake within a 12-24 hour window depending on your taste preference. If you don’t see any action, continue with a feeding schedule every 8 hours as outlined in Day 4 above until you see a cracked and domed surface. However, it’s important to note here that we have only had to feed it once 4 fl oz of water and 4 oz of flour before it started to show signs of maturing and we left it alone until ready to bake.
Hydration: This recipe makes a balanced sourdough starter at 100% hydration. This means that you will substitute equal amounts of flour and water in whatever recipe you want to adapt. For example, if you want to use 8 oz of starter, you will need to reduce the amount of liquid in a recipe by 4 fl oz and reduce the amount of flour by 4 oz.